Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder
January 10, 2024
On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris called on Georgia voting rights advocates and elected officials to continue to fight for expanded access to the ballot box as the election cycle gears up for this November’s presidential election.
Harris’ message was relayed during a roundtable discussion held at The Gathering Spot in Atlanta as the second-in-command to Democratic President Joe Biden was making her 10th trip in Georgia since becoming vice president in January 2021.
Georgia’s battle for voting rights intensified after the 2020 presidential election when then-President Donald Trump and his supporters falsely claimed that widespread voting fraud cost him his re-election bid.
The Harris-Biden ticket is expected to win the Democratic Party nomination and likely face a rematch against Donald Trump, who has maintained a dominant lead in national polls over the Republican field of candidates.
Harris on Tuesday labeled Georgia as ground zero in the fight for voting rights while noting the White House has pushed to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that would restore key areas of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 protecting minorities and other disenfranchised voters.
She also cited new policies pushed by the Biden administration, including paid time off for federal employees serving as poll workers and greatly expanding the number of languages translated on a government voting website.
Georgia’s civil rights icons such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis set the standard in how to fight for access to the ballot box, Harris said.
“Yet, we have seen in the state of Georgia, by example, anti-voter laws, laws that have limited drop boxes and made it illegal to even provide food and water to people standing in line for hours,” she said.
A series of legal challenges were filed by Democrats and progressive voting rights organizations in 2021 following the passage by Republican state lawmakers of an election law overhaul Senate Bill 202.
Organizations, such as Black Voters Matter, New Georgia Project, ACLU of Georgia, and Fair Fight Action have been lobbying state lawmakers to remove restrictions on the number of absentee drop boxes that are available within a voting district.
Republican officials, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr, have defended what they describe as needed election integrity laws because they survived a number of unsuccessful lawsuits by Democratic Party-aligned groups to block SB 202’s election overhaul provisions pertaining to absentee and provisional ballots and other new rules.
The latest setback for those opposed to the election law overhaul came on Jan. 2 when a federal judge ruled that Fair Fight Action did not prove that Texas-based True the Vote violated the Voting Rights Act while challenging the eligibility of hundreds of thousands of Georgia voters in the 2021 U.S. Senate runoff elections.
Raffensperger issued a statement Tuesday defending Georgia’s record on voting access, pointing to policies like automatic voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting. In addition, he said Georgia continues to set records for voter turnout and election participation.
“Georgia is a national leader in elections,” Raffensperger said. “It’s time for the Biden Administration to back down from their frivolous lawsuit and issue an apology to the voters of Georgia for continuing to push election disinformation.”
U.S Rep. Nikema Williams, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said that it’s appropriate for Harris to visit a city that is the cradle of the civil rights movement ahead of a pivotal 2024 election when the right to vote and other civil rights are at stake.
“As Donald Trump and extreme MAGA Republicans ramp up their dangerous anti-democracy rhetoric and attacks on voting rights, Georgians are more fired up than ever to stand with Vice President Harris and President Biden this November as they fight to ensure our fundamental freedoms are safe and our democracy is strong,” Williams said.
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